Why am I doing this anyway?

I was wondering how to approach the planning of a blog.

Do the pros plan a month in advance? A quarter? A year? Or do bloggers wait for inspiration to strike? For life to happen?

Darren Rowse runs ProBlogger. A video blog by Rowse describes a full-day planning meeting held with a core team of four colleagues to discuss the upcoming schedule for 2013.

Firstly, the team reviewed the past year’s activities in 2012 and the blogs’ current position based on four critical areas:

  1. Content: reviewed publication frequencies and types of content, including feedback received via comments. Assessed survey results about content.
  2. Community: reviewed quality of comments and signups. Assessed whether people joined forums and engaged in social media channels. Gauged quality of community interaction.
  3. Stats: reviewed analytics on traffic quality and quantity, visitor types, and traffic sources. Assessed balance of new and repeat visitors and whether they arrived via search engine or social medial referrals.
  4. Monetization: reviewed their income generation and evaluated opportunities where they could capitalize on their established brand. This area is critical since the company desires to be sustainable over the long haul.

The review also examined areas for improvement as well as ways to further develop successful ventures. Unsuccessful initiatives were evaluated for improvement or elimination. Throughout, they brainstormed.

Secondly, they listed activities such as product launches and scheduled events; then slotted them into their annual calendar.

Thirdly, they reviewed their goals and sought ways to achieve those goals, scheduling them into their annual calendar. This allowed them to break down the process to milestone those goals and engage in project planning. Some initiatives were penciled in for trial. This way, they could launch a trial and assess it before committing it more permanently in their annual calendar.

Once the calendar was complete, they reviewed the entire year and scheduled new initiatives in the gaps. This creates momentum for the year, and the framework provides clear direction for the next 12 months.

For new bloggers, Rowse’s video suggests that planning an entire year ahead is critical to success.

For solo bloggers whose operations are smaller and less formal, planning is still mandatory. There may be prolific seasons followed by fallow seasons. Write while the well is deep to shore up those dry spells!

For this new social media-ist, before dashing off to brainstorm a list of bloggable topics, I need to re-examine my reasons for entering the blogosphere. Yes, I am aware this is an effective delaying tactic…

WordPressVanGoghWhat is the main purpose of my blog? Who is my key audience? What are they interested in learning? What am I interested in researching? What are my niche areas of expertise? What is the tone of my blog? How can my personality better permeate my writing? How can I attract more traffic to my blog? How can I build community?

All good questions that demand great answers.

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Entering the Blogosphere

I am a novice blogger.

Celebrities and status-seekers write blogs. Corporations with social media strategies write blogs. Unconvinced that the blogosphere offered much to significantly impact my life, I consciously steered clear. Until now.

When my writer friend Elaine moved to Hong Kong, she started to blog about her travels as a way to record her impressions and to inform her friends back home that she was safe and having the adventure of a lifetime. A cracker jack journalist with an engaging writing style, her prolific blog chronicles her excellent adventure.

I followed her online. I trailed her to this temple, that market, and that historic site, learning about the people and politics of Asia along the journey. Her travel blog is a journal that kept us connected.

As I ponder my project for a Visual Design course, the creation of a design blog, I got to thinking about the actual definition of a blog. In order to create a blog, I need to define it!

 My search for an answer led me to two promising resources:

  1. the archives of the ProBlogger website where blogger Darren Rowse answers the question, and
  2. a YouTube video by Brian Brown at Pajama Market.com, the Business Blog Authority.

Definition

So what is a blog?

BlogShort for web log, a blog is a type of website that takes the form of an online journal written about a particular topic. A blog allows authors with little or no technical knowledge to update and maintain a blog, thus making this type of communication accessible to a broad audience. So now, people with something to say can do it online without tripping over the technology to accomplish it.

Yes, that’s for me!

Blogs contain current content, so the author (blogger) updates the blog regularly to capture and hold audience attention – and to maintain currency. Blogs can feature content from multiple authors or guest authors.

Well, this is a required class assignment, so I’d better be the sole author!

RosieBloggerAn entry on a blog is known as a “blog post” or “post”; blog posts appear in reverse chronological order with the most recent content appearing first.

A blog comprises text, hyperlinks, images, and links (to other web pages and to video, audio, or other files).

Aha! So a blog is the perfect medium to explore visual design and display of information. 

Features

Comment feature

Blogs are written in a casual style and document the author’s research or opinions on a focal topic. Some blogs are monologues – the author presents information for site visitors to read. However, many blogs are conversational and invite reader response through a comment function.

The comment option takes site visitors to a form where they can leave their name, email, and link their own blog. Visitors can also leave feedback, comments, critique, or questions about the blog topic.

I am not sure if all feedback is posted or whether there is a filtering or monitoring process that weeds out offensive or unrelated submissions. I’d better check that out!

Archive feature

Besides the comment functionality, blogs feature an archive. Successful blogs have lots of content that needs to be organized for easy retrieval. Archives can be searched by category or by date.

Subscribe feature

A subscribe feature allows readers to sign up so that every time a new blog post is available, the reader receives an email. This makes it easy for readers to follow a blog.

Hmmm…well, I am not expecting many followers, but now that I understand the basics, it’s time to choose a blog topic.

Wish I were writing about travels in Asia.

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